You’ve had a bit of a mad few months; the Newcastle United kit launch, the Plan B music video, your new video on Link Up TV, gigging – it’s difficult to know where to start – you must be feeling good right now?
At the minute everything’s just a bit overwhelming, but I’m just trying to keep my head down and look forward, I don’t want to look back too much. That’s when you get complacent. I need to keep pushing – but everything’s good man!
Let’s start with Plan B, you star in his “Wait So Long” music video, how did that come about and what was the experience like?
So, what happened was one of Plan B’s team got in touch with my agency, United Agents, and they’d seen the film ‘I, Daniel Blake’, they were like ‘we loved Kema in it and we’ve got a project coming up that we’d like him to be involved in’. The usual process with acting is before you get cast you’d normally have to audition – I didn’t have to, which was great for me.
It was crazy to me that he [Plan B] already knew who I was, I’ve listened to a lot of his music and for someone like him to know who I was, from what I had done, was quite surreal to be honest.
Did you have much interaction with Plan B… or did you call him Ben?
I didn’t know whether to call him Plan B or Ben, but everyone was calling him Ben, so I went with it. He took an interest in how I got into acting. We also shared a train together after filming and he spoke allot of wise words from his experiences and journey, and gave a lot of advice without realising. We’ve text a few times. He’s such a humble guy as well.
The Newcastle United kit launch with Puma, another incredible achievement, what’s the story behind that?
I always believe that everything comes at the right time; you know, I’ve been grinding for years and I’ve got my name out there in Newcastle and building the right connections. A company from London was asking around Newcastle who’s the best person to deliver poetry in form of a rap. They were looking for a Geordie that could do it.
The people they contacted in Newcastle all recommended me. There’s someone from The Sage I still need to thank! It was more word of mouth. The company checked my music out & got in touch with me via Instagram and it went from there.
Am I right in saying a lot of media outlets thought that you were a new signing for Newcastle United?
Yeah, it was so funny, because I had the Newcastle top on and I was with a huge camera crew walking around town, so it looked like I was being interviewed. Lots of Newcastle fans had their phones out taking photos, then it went viral on Twitter and they were like ‘oh who’s this new signing? Does anyone know?’ – couldn’t believe it!
You’ve just dropped your new single “No Games” on Link Up TV – what’s the response been like so far?
The response has been great, and the thing is, I’ve got so many tracks coming out, this is just my first step at ‘coming back’ if you like. I haven’t really dropped anything in over a year, because I’ve been focusing on my acting.
I also felt I needed to come with something a little bit different. When I was doing these harder rap tracks I was getting respect from people like ‘yeah, that’s sick, that’s hard’, but it kind of ended there, so I was like I need to do something that’s more me that people will still connect with.
You’re the first NE rapper on Link Up TV right?
That is true, first rapper from the North East ever on Link Up TV. So, for me, regardless of whatever happens with this track, it’s a huge achievement for myself and it shows anything is possible if you keep pushing.
Why did you think it was the right choice to go for that channel?
I’m very observant, I was watching how a lot of people do things that have made it – see when you look at someone who’s successful, look at their path, there’s usually a pattern and you can find out how they did it. Some people never take time to notice the opportunities right in front of them. I’ve watched people fail and I’ve seen people succeed, and I’ve learnt from both and from my own successes and failures. So, considering that I just thought Link Up TV was the right way to go.
You’ve got a full-length music project on the way soon too, what can you tell us about that?
Yeah, the project is actually already finished, 10 brand new songs. So, now there’s just videos to be shot for. All the music on his project is very real; I’ve got to realize – the music that’s remembered & really sticks with people is stuff that is real. A lot of this upcoming project is about real stuff that I’m going through and real stuff I’ve experienced – even with “No Games”, I’ve experienced that, I’ve been in a club or somewhere and I’ve liked the girl, judged the situation and got it wrong.
So, everything you’re going to hear is going to be based on something I’ve gone through or witnessed, all real music. There’s very deep stuff as well where I’m allowing myself to be vulnerable. At the minute there’s no date for release for the full project but everything is planned, I’m taking it step by step. I’m just trying to get my name out there more right now.
With all these things happening for you at the moment, do you think this is your time now?
I feel like the time is always now, because what I’m doing now is going to determine where I end up tomorrow. Comparing myself to the past; I’ve got rid of expectations on myself. Expectations can sometimes destroy what you’re trying to do or judge where you feel you’re at based on external results. I just focus on doing my best, everything else always falls into place. I feel like success sometimes is out of your hands, you can’t always predict when its going to happen; especially in a career where it’s solely based on what other people feel about your stuff.
So, right now, for me I feel like I’m already living my dream. Everything I’m doing now revolves around me being a creative. I don’t have a 9 to 5 job. Everything I make is from being a creative – I’m living my dream now and it can only get bigger, so the time is always now.
Obviously, you do both acting and music, is it difficult to juggle the two?
So difficult! I never realised how difficult it would be. It got to a point last year where I had to ask myself which one I wanted to focus on more, because when I got the role in ‘I, Daniel Blake’, a lot of things came from that in terms of acting… a lot of people don’t know this, unfortunately I didn’t get the part, but I got an audition for ‘Skyscraper’, the film with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, last year.
So, with that I got three call-backs, which usually means there’s an interest around you and you’re very close to getting the job. I lost out in the end, but it just opened my eyes, like wow I’m really doing bits right now! It just got to the point where these huge opportunities were coming at me left right and centre and I needed to capitalize on it, acting was and still is doing massive things for my career, but I’m in love with the music as well. Right now I’m taking things for both sides, I’m a hard worker, I know I can do both. People like Childish Gambino managed, so why can’t I?
Coming from Chat Trust, a lot of young people will be looking up to you right now, what advice would you give to a young creative with a similar background as you looking to make it in music or acting?
What I would say is work extremely hard, have faith, you have to believe it’s possible because it gets hard, and most importantly be yourself. There’s a lot of people out here trying to be someone else, I always say the fact we’re here on this earth already means we are a miracle – we weren’t made to be a copy of someone else. We each have different gifts and talents that bring something new to this world that no one else has. Its up to you to find it, some people bury it, compare themselves to others, care too much about what people think or fitting in. That’s the road to failure. Surround yourself with people that motivate and lift you up. Allow people to influence you positively – here in Newcastle I feel you can’t really compare me or my journey to any other rapper, I’m so different – in the beginning it was tough but now, it works in my favour.
And make sure you work hard, work harder than everyone else and challenge yourself, daily, ask yourself what you’ve done everyday to get a step closer to where you want to be. No ones going to knock on your door and hand it to you.
These opportunities that are coming to me now, a lot of people might say I’m lucky or whatever, but no one’s actually seeing what I’m doing behind closed doors – so, work in silence, work as hard as you can and take advantage of every opportunity, but most importantly be yourself!
Interview by J.Ramsay